Via LSC Blog

The Project, which has grown to represent over one million student borrowers, will officially spin-off from the Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School on August 1st

BOSTON – The Project on Predatory Student Lending announced that it will become an independent nonprofit organization as of today, August 1, 2022, formally separating from the Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School, where PPSL was founded in 2012. Since its inception, the Project on Predatory Student Lending’s legal team has grown to become the leading legal voice for borrowers defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges, with over one million clients and over $10 billion dollars in canceled fraudulent student loan debt.

 PPSL’s unique litigation and advocacy model has exposed predatory behaviors in higher education and has held bad actors accountable for their harm toward students. The litigation victories include the recently announced landmark proposed settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Education in the class action lawsuit Sweet v. Cardona that will wipe out all federal student loans for 200,000 borrowers, with minimum relief an estimated $6 billion.

“The Project on Predatory Student Lending has grown tremendously since its founding in 2012 and since its expansion in 2016, and I am incredibly proud of our team, our clients, and all we have accomplished together. Through our litigation we have delivered billions in debt relief for students, changing lives for hundreds of thousands of borrowers and their families,” said Eileen Connor, President and Director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending. “Our victories have also exposed the perils of our debt-financed higher education system and the challenges we continue to face in order to eliminate predatory practices in higher education, and to relieve current borrowers from fraudulent student loan debt. PPSL is incredibly grateful to have been incubated and housed within Harvard Law School and the WilmerHale Legal Services Center for the last ten years. Evolving to become a standalone organization is the natural next step in our growth and we look forward to embarking on this exciting new chapter, pursuing our mission as an independent organization.”

With this change, as of August 1, 2022, the Project on Predatory Student Lending will operate as a fully independent, nonprofit organization. All of the Project’s existing cases and clients will transfer over to the new organization.

 “Over the last decade with Harvard Law School and the WilmerHale Legal Services Center as its base, the Project on Predatory Student Lending has grown into a legal powerhouse,” said Daniel Nagin, Clinical Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center. “The project’s docket of cutting-edge cases has played a singular role in combating the predatory practices of for-profit colleges and vindicating the rights of student borrowers. Reflecting the center’s long tradition of fostering new ideas and endeavors, we could not be more proud to have nurtured the project’s growth and continued evolution. We are excited for the project’s next chapter and cannot wait to see what new strategies the project develops in the fight for justice.”

PPSL’s landmark cases include:

  • Sweet v. Cardona (formerly v. DeVos): PPSL represents more than 250,000 defrauded students from dozens of schools — including DeVry, University of Phoenix, ITT, Art Institutes, Brooks Institute, Corinthian Colleges, and more — whose borrower defense claims were ignored by the Department of Education for years and then, in many cases, summarily denied with no explanation. On June 22, 2022, student borrowers filed a joint motion for approval of a settlement with the Department of Education in which approximately 200,000 borrowers would immediately get loan cancellation, receiving a minimum of $6 billion total debt cancellation.
  • Calvillo Manriquezv. Cardona (formerly v. DeVos): PPSL obtained an injunction against former Secretary DeVos’s illegal “partial relief” formula for borrower defense claims, then successfully petitioned to hold the then Secretary in contempt of court for the department’s illegal collection of thousands of Corinthian students’ debts while the injunction was in place. In June 2022, the Department of Education announced the cancellation of all Corinthian College debts. This was a major win for student borrowers and a long overdue victory.
  • Vara v. Cardona(formerly v. DeVos): A federal judge ordered then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to cancel the loans of 7,200 former Corinthian Colleges students in Massachusetts. This was the first time a court has ever ordered a borrower defense discharge of federal student loans and it established a legal pathway for state attorneys general to pursue student loan discharge from the Department of Education on behalf of their state’s defrauded residents.
  • Villalba v. ITT: In ITT’s bankruptcy proceedings, the PPSL represents a class of 750,000 former ITT students as creditors of the company. PPSL reached a settlement with the bankruptcy estate that canceled $500 million in ITT debt, returned $3 million to former ITT students, and gave students a $1.5 billion allowed claim against the estate. PPSL recently published an in-depth report, Dreams Destroyed, detailing the massive fraud perpetrated by ITT.
  • Britt v. Florida Career College (FCC): Students sued the Florida-based for-profit college chain for systematically targeting Black students through “reverse redlining” and selling a predatory product using false representations and high-pressure sales tactics. Students are challenging a recent court order that would force them into arbitration.

About the Project on Predatory Student Lending

 Established in 2012, the Project on Predatory Student Lending represents over a million former students of predatory for-profit colleges. Its mission is to use litigation to eliminate predatory practices in higher education, and to relieve current and future borrowers from fraudulent student loan debt. PPSL has won landmark cases to protect borrower rights, recover money owed, and cancel more than $10 billion in fraudulent debt. Its ongoing cases hold predatory colleges accountable and force the U.S. Department of Education to act on behalf of students and stop protecting this insidious industry.

About the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School

Founded in 1979, the WilmerHale Legal Services Center (LSC) of Harvard Law School is located at the crossroads of Jamaica Plain and Roxbury in the City of Boston. LSC’s longstanding twin mission is to pursue justice for community members of limited means while educating Harvard Law students for practice and professional service. Through six clinics—Consumer Protection, Family Law/Domestic Violence, Low-Income Taxpayer, Housing, LGBTQ+ Advocacy, and Veterans Law and Disability Benefits—and numerous projects and pro bono initiatives, LSC advocates and student attorneys provide essential legal services to community members from nearby neighborhoods in Boston, to residents of Greater Boston and Massachusetts, and in some instances, where cases present unique law reform opportunities, to clients from across the country.

Across its many practice areas, LSC works to improve the lives of individual clients, to seek systemic change for the communities it serves, and to provide clinical law students with a singular opportunity to develop fundamental lawyering skills within an immersive and community-based, legal services practice setting. LSC’s clinics use a variety of advocacy tools—including high-volume civil legal services, innovative litigation and policy advocacy, and wide-ranging outreach and community legal education strategies. Central to LSC’s model of legal advocacy and clinical education is an understanding that legal crises do not arise in isolation, that many clients face multiple and intersecting legal and non-legal needs, and that a holistic approach to lawyering best serves client and community interests. LSC actively partners with a diverse array of community groups, prioritizes cooperation and inter-disciplinary work, including through two medical-legal partnerships, and regularly adapts its practice areas to meet the changing legal needs of client communities. To learn more about LSC and its individual clinics, projects, and initiatives, please visit the LSC website.

Filed in: In the News

Tags: Legal Services Center, Predatory Lending and Consumer Protection Clinic

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